For a company that’s as iconic in the Western industry as Montana Silversmiths, upholding the pillars of both tradition and trend is something that the brand has a lot of experience with.
We talked with Montana Silversmiths’ Vice President of Marketing, Judy Wagner, about the company’s focus on, not just offering beautiful buckles and accessories, but letting that craftsmanship tell the stories behind the products, those of its customers.
Tell us about the brand – who do you make products for?
Montana Silversmiths is a 48-year-old company. We divide our customers into three different groups; the core, enthusiast, and inspired, and with that we've been able to focus on what each customer group values. Our products are frequently purchased as gifts and often have memories tied to them, and that magic brings on its own persona. As customers become familiar with Montana Silversmiths, they start looking for things to complement something they've already received or have in their jewelry wardrobe. They also love the compliments that come to them personally, they remember those moments, and the association they play in their life. Then of course if you are talking belt buckles, consumers can place their own personal brand on them, or a meaningful figure on it [such as] the Christian cowboy. In the case of trophy buckles, winning or earning those buckles becomes, not just an item to treasure, but a memory, as Every Buckle has a Story. The flip side of that, our jewelry is not just an accessory either. It's a story in itself. That is what I like to call the secret sauce, that secret potion of Montana Silversmiths, again tying back to the emotional tie that people have with our products.
What is your brand philosophy?
Our brand philosophy is to focus on our products because that's what brought us to the dance, the programs that we provide for our retailers, and then thirdly, the many important partnerships that we've established over the years. It is our three P’s: the products, the programs and the partnerships.
What is new and noteworthy from your latest product release/line?
New product is always the life blood of Montana Silversmiths. In looking at products, of course we're always searching, for what's trending, then taking that trend and putting our own distinctive mark on it. Something that is truly ‘Montana,’ whether that has to do with our bright-cut engraving, some of our key icons like the feather or other symbols that we have had great success with, or our new American Legends collection where we're inlaying materials and taking inspiration from colors in nature. [It is] innovation, going forward with the products, looking at our best-selling pieces, and leveraging what is turning the best and resonating with consumers.
Have any products stood out as a retailer favorite/best seller? Are there any trends you’ve noticed in the market lately?
On a consumer level, buckles are trending stronger than ever. Personalization is a key factor, as is quality, along with variety and relevancy of designs. For buckles and jewelry, we design around key motifs. An example would be faith, [which is] very important within our industry. It has to do with our partnerships and our licenses as another example. We've recently gone out to Taya Kyle and Angela Blair with the Warrior Collections, or Yellowstone products from the Paramount TV show, as well as tried and true brands like John Deere, and so many more. [We are] really focusing on what the consumers are valuing, who our licensed partner is, and what we can do to help them. [It goes] back to the three P’s; the product, making sure that is top of the line, top of class, and at the right price-point. Then [it is] creating the programs for our retailers. If it's a licensee or sponsorship for an equine event, then it’s partnerships. For Montana Silversmiths, ‘business really is personal,’ our focus is to support what our customers and consumers alike value, and in that we have found success.
Do you attend major market events? If so, which ones?
We have a showroom in Dallas and attend regional markets. We have a very strong and dedicated sales team partnering with our retailers to do what it takes throughout the year, and individually throughout the quarter, to ensure their success presenting new products, proven best sellers and programs to support their business.
How do new retailers go about setting up an account?
We have recently created a new B2B site that retailers can access 24/7. https://b2b.montanasilversmiths.com/ New retailers can apply to be a dealer directly on the site. The B2B site makes ordering quick and easy, and has not only our products, but all our marketing materials, like catalogs, point of sale, retail support tools, and other valuable information. It’s a great resource for all retailers.
After the ups and downs of 2020, do you feel buyer confidence is returning?
We definitely feel that buyer confidence is increasing and improving. Even going through everything that we all went through [in] 2020. What this experience has done is to take a closer look at what we do, appreciate what we can do and leverage our strengths for where we can go in the future. We focused on the things that really matter. Confidence is returning to the marketplace and we are building on successes, [we’re] poised to have one of our best years ever.
What is your advice to retailers looking to gain ground in 2021?
My best advice, top of mind, is merchandising and focused effort on making the product the star. It will support turns and customer appreciation. We, as Montana Silversmiths, are working very hard to create the support tools needed to help our retailers in turn, tell that story. You have our promise on that.
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